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'Respiratory protection' of the nitrogenase in dinitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria

G. A. PESCHEK, K. VILLGRATER and M. WASTYN
Plant and Soil
Vol. 137, No. 1, Selected papers from the PROCEEDINGS OF THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON NITROGEN FIXATION WITH NON-LEGUMES (November (I), 1991), pp. 17-24
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42937162
Page Count: 8
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'Respiratory protection' of the nitrogenase in dinitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria
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Abstract

Several filamentous and unicellular cyanobacteria were grown photoautotrophically with nitrate or dinitrogen as N-sources, and some respiratory properties of the cells or isolated plasma (CM) and thylakoid (ICM) membranes were compared. Specific cytochrome c oxidase activities in membranes from dinitrogen-fixing cells were between 10-and 50-times higher than those in membranes from nitrate-grown cells, ICM of heterocysts but CM of unicells being mainly responsible for the stimulation. Whole cell respiration (oxygen uptake) of diazotrophic unicells paralleled increased cytochrome oxidase activities of the isolated membranes. Mass spectrometric measurements of the uptake of isotopically labeled oxygen revealed that (low) light inhibited respiration of diazotrophic unicells to a much lesser degree than that of nitrate-grown cells which indicates the prevailing (respiratory) role of CM in the former. Normalized growth yields of diazotrophic unicells grown in continuous light were significantly higher than those of cells grown in a 12/12 hrs light/dark cycle. Mass spectrometry showed that overall nitrogen uptake by the former was higher than by the latter; in particular, and in marked contrast to the time course of nitrogenase activity (acetylene reduction) there was no appreciable nitrogen uptake or protein synthesis during dark periods; likewise, there was no 14-CO₂ fixation, nor chlorophyll synthesis, nor cell division in the dark. By contrast, growth in continuous light gave sustained rates of nitrogen and carbon dioxide incorporation over the whole time range. Our results will be discussed in terms of ' respiratory protection' as an essential strategy of keeping apart nitrogenase and oxygen, either atmospheric or photosynthetically produced within the same cell.

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